Professional advice and guidance for aspiring actors.
On Thursday, May 11, UBCP hosted a webinar for almost 900 union actors that included every major film and television casting house in Vancouver save two. It was an unprecedented connection between Actors and Casting, as well as amongst Casting themselves.
The meeting was not recorded, so as to create a safe space for Casting to be authentic and open without fearing being taken out of context, and a monitored chat was open for members to interact with, and boy did they.
From saying hello and thank you to making comments about the discussion to asking questions to using the opportunity to shout themselves and others out, the chat was rolling consistently for the full 2 hour conversation.
Vice president John Cassini acted as moderator, referencing a complete list of the hundreds of questions UBCP received in advance of the webinar.
Note: This discussion is about Film and Television auditions exclusively - not commercial.
The discussion then moved on to asking the panel to dispel the biggest myths they were hearing around the new and improved post covid19 approach to casting.
BIGGER MORE IMPORTANT TRUTH - More Canadians are being hired in meaningful, significant roles by American productions than ever before. The self tape shift has, and can continue to lead to, incredible success for local actors.
As the panel was busting these myths, they also elaborated on how they operate and what happens on their side of the casting process.
1. Auditions are cumulative
2. Casting edits tapes (and shouldn’t have to!)
3. Casting doesn’t want actors to pay to audition.
Update: On May 17, UBCP announced that Production will provide a free 15 minute slot at an in person audition space with a reader for anyone who is unable or unwilling to self tape.
4. Rumored “hybrid” casting models are unlikely to be the next step.
Truth Bomb: When Casting offers a live zoom session instead of a tape; only 5% of actors take them up on it.
5. Canadian Casting directors aren’t unionized.
6. Casting actively fights for the rights of Canadian actors to be auditioned first.
8. Casting is committed to growing and supporting new casting directors in Canada.
At this stage of the conversation, Mr. Cassini asked specific questions from the UBCP membership.
1. The notes that are provided on the breakdown are often the redirects that would’ve been given in the room. Casting works hard to provide more than enough information about the projects they’re auditioning to ensure that every actor is set up for success.
2. The next audition request IS the feedback! If you are auditioning consistently, your work is good.
3. Feedback is still being given out and is available through your agent. It’s unrealistic to expect specific feedback often, but touching base once in a while to ask for thoughts is welcome. Casting will give out honest feedback if requested, so be sure that’s what you’re ready for.
4. Main feedback for all Vancouver/Canadian actors: Keep working on perfecting the standard American accent. Producers are finely tuned to hearing it and it affects your castability.
1. If you want to, you can: some CDs really love having more than one take, especially of shorter scenes. But make sure that you don’t send the same read twice. If you’re going to send more than one take, the mercurial change in tactics must be obvious.
2. If you do send multiple takes, please send them as individual files so that casting can easily arrange the takes they want to send forward.
1. Make sure you state your Name, Height, Current Location and Union Status in your slates. If you have any conflicts with the outside dates in the breakdown, add that to your slate as well.
Note: Make sure your casting profiles are up to date with your union status and whether or not you are a BC tax payer.
2. Shoot your slates with full body framing - if you don’t have space to have a fully clean backdrop, don’t worry. There’s no problem seeing the space around your audition set up.
3. Split screen slates (half the screen on close up, the other half showing full body) are very effective, but not necessary.
4. Keep it simple! Don’t add any “flair” like additional stories or anecdotes. It can often work against you (unless it works for you… but it’s dangerous, so just avoid it).
5. Don’t slate in character; let your scene show you as the character and your slate represent the professional actor that will show up on set.
6. Don’t use title cards - they take up unnecessary time. Put that information in the file label.
Note: Immediately following the webinar, the panel was meeting independently to discuss coming up with more standardized requests for self tape formatting, slates, labeling, etc.
BIGGER TRUTH: Early isn’t better, but on time is imperative. If you are late, you may miss the casting window.
Yes, some actors have bad days on set, but that happens with actors of all experience levels. New actors are doing great.
Unsolicited tapes are not watched. If you and your agent are passionate about reading for something specific, then just have your agent email and ask. Do not send unsolicited tapes.
1. We care about your work and watch everything that helps us do our jobs to the best of our ability.
2. “Sometimes you are terrible” (This is a direct quote and my single favorite moment of the webinar; I’ll elaborate in PART 2.)
1. Educate yourself on the genre and pace of the show. This understanding is the key to the success of any audition.
2. One CD said that 80% of the redirects they would give would be to pick up the pace and drive the scene more.
3. It’s obvious when you’ve “worked the scene to death” by taping your scene over and over to get a “perfect” execution.
4. Props are fine, but don’t go overboard. More than 1 or 2 is likely too much.
1. Please read everything. All the information you need to perform a great audition is available to you, and if you have any questions, just get your agent to reach out to casting.
2. Vancouver actors really are killing it on the American production stage. Keep working hard. If we get complacent and don’t keep moving forward, international actors will outpace us.
3. “Help us be good” (Another golden direct quote I’ll touch on more below.)
If you’re brand new to the Laura Mac Method, let me catch you up on one of the little core nuggets of our work; every actor operates with 4 different types of key relationships: Teammates, Mentors, Business Partners and Tough Lovers.
The rest of this blog will be written by “Tough Love Laura”
Before we let her on to the keyboard, I encourage you to ask yourself if tough love is what you need right now.
Keep in mind: Tough Lovers are the people in your life who hand you the pills that stick to the side of your esophagus on the way down, but are exactly what you need to get better.
They suck at giving out validation. Tough Love Laura doesn’t have time for that shit.
So if you’re struggling; read this little insert from the other Lauras and then click off this blog and go about your day.
Teammate Laura: The absolute most important message from Casting is that they are 100% on your side and they love all the hard work you’re doing. Keep working to the best of your ability, read the audition information thoroughly and keep working on your American accents.
Mentor Laura: If you are struggling with feeling terrible about self taping, focus on building a community that can support you and who you can support. I’ve dedicated a big chunk of my life to building one for myself, and the results of working together have been life changing. Come and check out the work we do at Laura Mac Method.
Business Partner Laura: There actually are more opportunities now than ever before so get excited about giving your best work. Here’s a program that will remove your blind spots; it continues to remove mine and the results speak for themselves.
Tough Love Laura is not brief. The core of my message is love, and love means taking the time to communicate as effectively as possible.
I want to assure you, there is no judgment here. I myself used to view my career and my craft development very differently and as the great Maya Angelou said “When you know better you do better”.
I’ve had the privilege of dedicating myself to learning and developing a mindset that has made me happier and more creatively fulfilled (and yes, booking more too).
It’s ok to have blind spots. I’ve got tons of them! I don’t even know all the things I don’t know!
My ultimate aim is to help you and me and every actor in Vancouver, and every actor in Canada, and heck, every actor in the US or anywhere else in the world, to be the most conscientious and talented professional actors they can be. Actors who are valuable to everyone from casting assistants to network executives to their audience.
Last chance to step away from Tough Love Laura.
For real though, if you’re feeling shitty about yourself or your career, just leave this for another time. Go for a walk instead!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When the webinar ended, I jotted down two things:
How I was feeling: Equal parts:
The biggest takeaways for me personally; the actor called Laura Mac who created the program called the Laura Mac Method:
Before the webinar, I didn’t know that casting was only requesting a general average of 20-25 tapes per role. If I had assumed anything, I would’ve assumed that it was more, I too have heard the “casting is seeing 100 people per role” rumor.
To be perfectly frank, I just don’t concern myself with details like that. But still, hearing the panel say numbers that low made me realize the significance of how many auditions I get requested for.
If you’re new to the Laura Mac Method, you should know that we all keep Acting Log Books that track what we work on in classes and auditions; we note how much work we put in, and how we feel about the result. We also put notes about outcomes like holds or bookings, but the focus is on the work and how we feel about it, since that’s all we can control.
While writing this blog today, I can go back into my logbook and tally that I’ve had 289 film and tv auditions in the last two years. And another two just popped into my inbox, so now it’s 291. 291 times that I’m one of 20-25 tapes being requested. Sometimes, like today, for more than one role on the breakdown. I’m so lucky!
Is it really luck though? Of course not. So why am I getting requested so often?
Well, looking back at my logbook, approximately 95% of those 289 auditions, I’ve given myself a rating of 8.5/10 or higher for my work. 95% of the time, I feel great about the work that I’m sending forward, so it follows that others are feeling great about my work too.
And yes, I booked a bunch of those auditions and was pinned or short listed for several more. Of course that’s the case, isn’t it? I love my work!
My acting has gotten so much stronger since we started being able to WATCH our auditions. The 5% of my auditions that I rated below 8.5? They’re the auditions that I learned the most from.
My relationship with Film and TV Casting has gone from almost non existent with some to moderately good with others to fabulous with all of them. Pre covid, I was lucky to audition for film and tv maybe once or twice a month. Now, I know that any role that I could be good for, I’m being seen for. And when there’s a lull in audition requests, I enjoy the break and don’t question that the next audition is absolutely on its way.
Oh and look at that, a third audition request. I’d better text one of my associates and set up a zoom taping time…
Good news, Ryan’s available and he just got an audition request too. We’ll bang out all four together.
The purpose of the Laura Mac Method is simple: provide actors with the information and community they need to feel confident, motivated, connected and supported.
To educate actors to not just be better actors, but smarter actors. Actors who focus on improving all the areas of their crafts and career that are available to be mastered - and feel creative and fulfilled and excited in the process.
The Casting Director panel echoed what I lay out in Foundations lesson #21 Being a Benefit, #24 Your Local Market, #28 Building Your Team and really encouraged you to do what #29 Goal Setting lays out for you… through the lens of what you develop in #35 - #41 our Human Behavior series.
Everything from the Actors Toolkit, the first 10 lessons that make up the free part of the program, aligns with providing a solution to Casting’s main request: Help us be good.
And the work we do through the Academy developing both ourselves and our communities really is the not-so-secret solution to 99% of the problems actors are having coping with the new self tape format.
Let me make something very clear; I absolutely agree that no one should have to pay to audition. But I also believe that to be a successful actor, you have to make many types of investments. And the world changes, one’s adaptability dictates success.
I have never paid to Self tape. None of my associates pay to self tape either. Nor do we ever have issues finding someone to read with us and give us great, informed notes and feedback that helps us both deliver the best tape and improve for the next one.
We have invested in building self tape set ups. Some of us have big spaces, some little, and we have all found solutions that work for us. None of us have invested more than we were comfortable with and I can guarantee that I have spent exponentially more money on headshots over the years than I have on my self tape set up.
We are a community. We love working together and helping each other. We don’t focus on what we lost in the change, we just look at the fact that things have changed! Things change all the time. And if you look closely, you’ll see that we have gained at least as much, if not more, then we lost. We love the self tape model!
Yes, Vancouver casting always provided great readers for in person auditions and gave helpful redirects and feedback in the room.
We are also great readers and give each other great redirects and feedback, often better than we would’ve gotten at an in person audition because we can spend more time together. Plus our knowledge of each other's work and shorthand for notes means we can work both effectively and efficiently; we often bang out 6-7 different auditions in less than an hour and are happy to do so and leave feeling pumped about ourselves.
We feel lucky to get to control the work we send. We don’t feel put upon to carry the new load of filming and editing our self tapes, was it a learning curve? Yes. One of the thousands of learning curves we’ve had along our acting journeys so far.
We enjoy the opportunity to read for each other because it makes us better actors. All of my associates and I, plus hundreds of Foundations and Academy Alumni have found new, inspiring, creative fulfillment from working together.
Creative fulfillment which has led directly to stronger, more grounded, specific and active acting work,
Which has led to a stronger sense of confidence and excitement in the work,
Which has led to more audition opportunities,
Which has led to better relationships in the industry and
Which, yes, has led to more bookings.
Creative fulfillment is in your control.
How Being a Non Union Actor Benefited Me Most.
I bought my ring light in 2018 because I wanted to be able to control when I could produce good quality work that could help me build relationships with casting. You see, until a few months ago: I was non-union.
I am now a proud and dedicated full union member, but I was a non union actor for a very long time. In fact, I joined the union when I moved to Vancouver in 2012 as an apprentice and then after a few years of getting literally zero auditions, I was encouraged by teachers, mentors and agents to leave the union until I built up more experience.
The union representative I spoke to at the time was very supportive and also encouraged me to relinquish my apprenticeship for the time being.
As soon as I did, I started booking non union commercials. Lots of them. Fewer than some actors, but more than most. People started calling me a “commercial queen”.
I loved my time working in commercials. I learned a million things and was able to earn money that allowed me to spend fewer hours working as a server, and more hours working on my acting, which led to me offering workshops to help actors, which has ultimately led to what you see today.
Being non union meant that Casting was required to consider other actors for Film and TV roles before considering me. This was not made clear to me as a non union actor. In fact, in my 8 years working non union, I don’t recall any outreach from UBCP/ACTRA to educate me or my fellow non union actors on this and all the other important reasons to join the union. I could be wrong, and apologize if I am.
In my experience, the general saying that I heard over and over again from agents, mentors and teachers (even producers and directors!) was to “stay non union” until you’re consistently booking film and television roles.
So what did I do? I focused on what I could control and took my development into my own hands.
I started putting self tapes together to prove myself to my agent and to casting. I started helping other actors put self tapes together and even coming to do a pre-tape session before their in-person audition to prepare.
Keep in mind, in 2018 self tapes were a rarity and unsolicited tapes would sometimes be watched if pitched appropriately by the agent. As discussed above, that is no longer the case. Don’t send unsolicited tapes. But definitely make tapes for your own development and creative satisfaction!
Helping others helped me. So I kept helping others and encouraging others to do the same. I’ve always understood that actors are not in competition with each other, even when they’re auditioning for the same roles.
Two things are fundamentally true in the entertainment (and every) business:
So I focused on mastering all the things I needed to do to become the cream and developed my own community of support. A community committed to the same things as me: getting better and building careers together.
Developing this method led to inevitable success. Remember those 292 auditions? The vast majority came before I joined the union. Which means I was regularly one of the few non union actors being requested by casting.
Having more odds stacked against me forced me to adapt.
And with adaptation comes new solutions.
The work works.
I’m not a guru, it’s not rocket science and it’s not something that hasn’t been said by other people in hundreds of different ways.
When you know what you can get better at, and work to get better at it - you end up better at it.
When you surround yourself with other people who are also committed to getting better, you guarantee that you won’t quit or go off course.
When you get better, you become more valuable to Casting - And to your agent, the directors and producers and networks, and castmates, and h/muas, and 3rd ADs, and sound team, and every single other business partner you have or want to have.
You decide if you want to challenge yourself to be better or focus on all the factors working against you.
You get to control how valuable you become.
Which leads to the real Tough Love of this blog:
What the fuck, y’all.
If I were a casting director in this city and I heard the rumors that the panel dispelled, I would feel hurt. That all these wonderful actors who I actively fight diligently for, would assume that I weren’t operating with the highest of integrity; would assume that I’m profiting from the new self tape model and antagonistically making them do more work; I would feel deeply disrespected.
Especially if at the same time, I’m watching tapes that:
Friends. Seriously. Wtf.
I spoke to this in the chat during the webinar and I’ll say it more explicitly here:
Who is out there putting in less than bare minimum effort, and believing they are entitled to opportunities and jobs?
Stop wasting your time spinning the rumor mill of how “Casting doesn’t care, they make more money this way. They just get their assistants to do the work for them. They’re not even watching all the tapes.”
It’s time to take responsibility for your attitudes and actions.
If you’re not auditioning; ask yourself if that’s on you.
Casting can audition way more talent via self tape than in person, which means there are literally more opportunities than ever before.
So ask yourself: Does my headshot suck? Does my demo material suck? Does my work ethic suck? Does my relationship with my agent suck? Does my acting suck?
If you used to audition or book a lot more pre-covid; ask yourself if that’s on you.
Dedicated, hard working actors who didn’t get the opportunity to audition often in person, are proving how valuable they are and killing it in their tapes and on set.
So ask yourself: Has my work stagnated? Am I doing work I’m proud of? How can I be better for my community?
If you want to audition and book more; ask yourself if that’s on you.
Nothing is stopping you from making great self tapes except you.
So ask yourself: Have I invested enough into building a self tape set up? Do I put enough work into my auditions? Have I built myself a community of support?
The fundamental difference between the “Laura Mac Method” and a large portion of Vancouver Actors is mindset.
✅The Laura Mac Method hears the rumor that Casting is seeing a hundred people per role and we try our absolute best every time because we are excited to be one of them.
❌Some Vancouver actors hear the rumor that Casting is seeing a hundred people per role so they don’t bother really trying.
If you’re one of those people, then the tough truth is that actors like us are outperforming you.
When you focus on being a victim of circumstance, you blind yourself to the parts of the job that are entirely in your control, and you miss the opportunity to challenge yourself
and be creative
and enjoy your work.
You create a self fulfilling prophecy: you feel bitter and powerless, your work stagnates, you talk about how shitty everything is and spread a toxic energy that no one feels good about and certainly isn’t jumping to work with.
I challenge you to ask yourself this question instead: “**How can I HELP Casting?**”
Where were all the questions we could have asked during our 2 hour conversation with Casting? Questions like:
Bless the panel for expressing compassion; telling us they understood why we were spiraling and latching onto rumors. That they understood that we are sensitive artists, who get scared and take things personally. Heck, half the job of being an actor is taking things personally.
And the other half is being valuable to the industry you want to work in. Doing your best every time instead of deciding that Casting’s not watching your audition tape.
They’re watching your tape, “sometimes you are terrible”.
Tough Love Laura out.
Yikes. That love was tougher to chew than 2 year old taffy.
Teammate Laura wants to jump back in and remind you that there is always time to shift for the better. And no one wants you to see you succeed more than Casting.
Mentor Laura wants to challenge you to try my program. It’s pre-recorded and the first part is free. You can watch the whole actor’s toolkit right now! I promise it’ll help.
Business Partner Laura would really like you to get undeniably, majorly successful. The more brilliant actors we have in Vancouver, the more work comes to Vancouver, the more opportunities I get to do what I love; act.
If you’re reading this before the weekend of June 10-11 and you want to work with me and my team in person and see what all the fuss is about; click here and sign up for our Weekend Acting Bootcamp*.
*Every actor that attends will receive a surprise offer of 2 months of the Foundations or 1 month of the Academy for FREE. But it’s a surprise, so don’t tell anyone.